Monday, April 23, 2012

Epic Adventure 2011 - Day 1

In mid August 2011 we embarked on an epic journey to the summit of 4 remote, rugged, and high mountains. Why is it epic? First, the trailhead is only accessible by the Durango Silverton Narrow-guage railroad OR 14 miles of hiking. It's in the remote San Juan mountains, and it's in the Weminuche Wilderness area. We'll hike over 24 miles round trip and gain over 10,000 feet of elevation, reaching the summit of four unique 14,000+ feet peaks (aka 14ers)! Being a wilderness area, mountain goats outnumber people, and "running water" is a nearby creek. Electricity is provided by the frequent afternoon thunderstorms. Cell phones have no signal, except maybe on the mountain summits. In this place, nature in it's raw, natural form can be seen.




All revved up and ready to go! This train is OLD, and there are very few coal-fired trains still in operation. It creaks and smokes and rumbles up the track. We were anxious to get started on our journey.
     
Just another ho-hum beautiful day in the San Juan mountains.
The train slowed to a crawl as we climbed high over the Animas River. This part was awesome!

Blowing off a little steam (literally)

These are our accomidations on the train in the open-air car


The train climbs high above the Animas River




The minerals made the water all sorts of wonderful blues and greens.
The middle portion of the train ride looked a lot like this
An awe-insipring look at the needle mountains from the train

 
 After nearly 2 hours on a coal-fired train, we depart in the middle of a wilderness and cross over the Animas River on a modern steel bridge. Once the train leaves, you really are on your own. Hope you are ready to "survive" in the Wilderness!
 

The trail climbs up a gully above Needle Creek.  The wilderness trail has kind of a raw, wild feeling to it. The climate was warn and dry when we left the trailhead, but it quickly got cooler and more moist as we climbed into an Alpine climate.

New York Creek falls as it joins with Needle Creek right off the trail. This is a popular rest stop along the way.
Taking our 2nd and final break after about 5 miles.
  

 

Further into Chicago Basin. Jupiter Mountain is on the right.
    


Jeff looks at rocky peaks from the Chicago Basin. At this point we are nearly to our campsite for the day.
   

Sunset on the mountainside

Cool lighting as the last rays of the sun light up the mountaintops.

The sun sets on the Needle Peaks near the end of day 1. See you tomorrow!


After over 6 miles of hiking in 3 hours, we settled into a campsite in the green, lush valley well over 11,000 feet in altitude. It had been a fairly long day and we kicked back for a little while with our books before going to bed around 10PM.  It was very cool and damp even in the heat of the August summer in this magical place.

 

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